Ascent of Volcán Acatenango on 2012-12-31

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Duane Gilliland
Adrian Rayner
Date:Monday, December 31, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Volcán Acatenango
    Elevation:13041 ft / 3974 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this peak the day after El Salvador's Cerro El Pital. It completed our set of the 6 Guatemalan ultras.

We were in Chimaltenango overnight, and drive an unpaved road (fairly rough but our minibus drove it OK, as do the public buses and apparently normal passenger cars) across to the trailhead at N14.53603 W90.88633, 2400m, close to a road junction, just along the road from where Adam Helman, Petter Bjorstad and (around the same time) Richard and Denise Mclellan climbed the peak. Our trailhead is the one used by Ken Jones and I have his GPS track, also Richard's.

Here we met our local guide, which we were advised by Adrenalina Tours to use for security, as the first part of the route passes through fields and there have been robberies. However, his presence enhances our enjoyment and probably contributes to our success on a day of challenging weather.

He also tells us the local name for the highest peak, which is Yeacopaca. Acatenango, he tells us, is the name of the lower peak immediately north (right) of the saddle visited during the ascent.

We leave at 05:45, just about first light, taking a trail which starts R of a building. The surface is gritty dusty volcanic sand, not particularly stable. There are quite a few turnings: L at N14.53493 W90.88604, keep R at N14.53490 W90.88517, keep R at N14.53166 W90.88253. At N14.53044 W90.88034 we join the track recorded by Richard Mclellan. A notable landmark is a large hollow tree at N14.52701 W90.87861, 2757m: a nice spot for breakfast. At N14.52451 W90.87789 (2919m) is the left turn which Petter and Adam took. We came back down that way, but in ascent we keep R here, staying on the main trail. There is a L turn at N14.52192 W90.87789. We are passed by a Guatemalan group including a young lad on a horse. It is cold and windy, although sheltered while we are in the forest.

We reach a shack at N14.51747 W90.87519, 3359m, at a level spot exposed to the wind which is now very strong. The Guatemalan group with the horse turn back and head down - they are local and can return on a better day. We put on all our clothing and are set to leave, but our guide suggests we wait for the weather to improve. The shack has a number of youngsters who have spent the night there. They have a fire going and a pan of coffee brewing. They offer us cups of the strong black sweet liquid. We spend maybe an hour around the fire, procrastinating. The sun breaks through briefly. A group head out. They don't return. In a while our guide suggests we do too.

The trail continues L of the shack (N14.51743 W90.87507) and makes an ascending traverse of the left hand slope. We are reasonably sheltered and it's not particularly cold. We pass above the end of the 4x4 road mentioned in Adam's report and the trail soon turns more directly uphill to reach the saddle (N14.50550 W90.87449, 3761m) mentioned by Adam, with a ring of stones marking a bivvy site.

The cloud is starting to break up: looking back we have views of Antigua town and cloud capped Volcan de Agua. From the col we see the shapely Volcan San Pedro to the NW while closer to hand is the rugged north crater. Our guide takes us R of this crater, relatively sheltered from the strong wind. We ascend a steep loose slope to a large boulder N14.50244 W90.87635 then climb up through easy, mostly stable outcrops to the crater rim.

Here the full force of the wind hits us. The four of us make the short ascent to the highest point (N14.50163 W90.87549, 3986m), marked by 3 boulders and a T shaped pipe structure. The clouds clear several times and we are treated to gorgeous views, especially of Volcan de Agua which we climbed a week ago.

We walk across to the SE summit (N14.50043 W90.87459) marked by a few stones, appearing visually to be a little lower, supported by GPS readings. Adrian and I carry on round the crater rim, enjoying fine views of the active (but apparently not explosive) Fuego.

Our guide takes us down past the right (east) rim of the north crater; we see a few active vents. Again the scenery is excellent. We reverse our upward route as far as N14.51120 W90.86967 where we make a short descent R to the 4x4 road used by Adam and Petter, which we follow to N14.51776 W90.87078 where we keep L on a foot trail. At N14.52307 W90.87608 we keep L. We imagine this trail eventually emerges at the junction at N14.52451 W90.87789 mentioned earlier, although our guide takes us via an obscure short-cut route.

Once back on the main trail we follow it back down to the road where Manuel our driver is waiting. Our total round trip time is 8 hours including about an hour in the shack waiting for the weather, and another hour at the summit, so it's not a big hike.

This was the perfect ending to our Guatemala trip, which netted all six Ultras in that country plus the bonus El Salvador ultra.

We now travel back to Guatemala City, flying tomorrow, Adrian and Edward homeward; Duane and I to Hawaii to pursue peaks there: I summit Haleakala two days hence.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8448 ft / 2574 m
    Total Elevation Loss:8448 ft / 2574 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.3 mi / 13.4 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 1
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Cold, Very Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:8448 ft / 2574 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.7 km
    Route:From north
    Start Trailhead:4593 ft / 1399 m
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:8448 ft / 2574 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.7 km
    End Trailhead:4593 ft / 1399 m
    Time:3 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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